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Behind the Curtain: Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Every event that receives major media coverage and has an element of competition naturally becomes a hot topic for public discussion on social media. Who would you choose? Who do you think deserves to win? We mull these questions over and often take to social media to express our opinions, especially when the event involves things we’re passionate about, like sports, politics, or movies.

The annual Academy Awards are one of these topics: everyone has an opinion! And those opinions, taken in aggregate, offer some fascinating insights into the competition. But unlike elections, for example, the public doesn’t ultimately have a say in what makes it into the prized envelope. While social media can’t tell us who will win, we can learn who would, if the internets had their way.

Despite this limitation, forecasts based on social media discussions across the six main categories—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress, and Best Actor/Actress in Supporting Roles—have proven to be very accurate. Last year, for example, we successfully predicted winners of 6 out of 9 categories based on the number of social interactions around each nominee; and in 2013, we correctly tapped Argo as the Best Picture winner of the year.

This year, we decided to switch up the way we tell you about the social media Oscar forecast. You can get your predictions from many sources, but we’re going to take you behind the curtain, and show you how we arrived at our forecast.

We analysed millions of conversations with uberVU via Hootsuite, and the results surprised us: for half of the categories, the winner by number of mentions was vastly different from the winners by sentiment. So instead of predicting a single winner for those categories, we decided to show you the social media divide on this year’s candidates by listing both the most discussed films and actors, who received the highest number of mentions, as well as the nominees who received the most positive overall sentiment.

Here is your social media forecast for the 87th Academy Awards

Best Picture

Social media talks about: American Sniper

Best Picture - Mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Whatever the title in the golden envelope may be, Clint Eastwood’s recent film has already won the title for the most discussed movie of 2015. With over two million social mentions, American Sniper had three times the volume as the next closest competitor—that means it beat all other nominees by hundreds of thousands of conversations! Several important considerations keep us from proclaiming American Sniper the ultimate winner. First is the fact that American Sniper is also the name of Chris Kyle’s bestselling autobiography, which served as the inspiration for the movie. Many mentions could be references to the book, as well as the controversial figure of the late Chris Kyle himself, or the influence of the film adaptation of Kyle’s life may have on the outcome of his accused murderer’s trial (which is still in progress).  Lastly, extensive media coverage of the conflict over royalties for the film adaptation of Kyle’s book has undoubtedly contributed to some of the social discussions.

Social media favourite: The Theory of Everything

Best Picture - Sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

While the most talked-about film actually receives the lowest percentage of positive sentiment on social media, The Theory of Everything trumps its competitors with 35% positive sentiment. It even passes the other biopic candidate, The Imitation Game, by 6%.

However, it seems that the social votes are split even further down: neither American Sniper nor Theory of Everything made it into the category of films that most commonly include the word “win” in social media posts. If the Academy Awards were decided by the percentage of people who talk about “winning” on social, the victory would be a tie between Boyhood and Birdman.

Best Actor

Social media talks about: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Best Actor - mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Here’s a surprise to no one: the number of mentions on social media has proclaimed the beloved Sherlock actor as this year’s winner in the Best Actor category. Cumberbatch has received over 330,000 social mentions, passing the second-place candidate, Bradley Cooper, by almost a hundred thousand mentions. And even though The Imitation Game’s success to accurately describe the fascinating life of the father of AI has been largely disputed, at least we got to enjoy the Tumblr-famous Benedict Cumberbatch’s neck for nearly two hours.

Social media favourite: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actor - sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Eddie sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

While Cumberbatch is dominating social discussions, only 14% of those mentions include the words “Oscar” or “The Imitation Game,” so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that while the Sherlock star has a bigger following, it may not be enough to earn him the golden statuette. In fact, the winner of social media sentiment analysis for Best Actor is Eddie Redmayne, who plays the role of physicist Stephen Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything. His overall sentiment rating is 28% positive, 16% greater than that of Cumberbatch. So watch out, Benedict—if Redmayne’s recent appearance in the box office bust Jupiter Ascending couldn’t bomb his sentiment rating, he may just be the dark horse of the Academy Awards.

Best Actress

Social media picks: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Best Actress - mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Best Actress- sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Julianne Moore convo map -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

The Academy Awards seem to factor in the previous number of Oscar nominations and victories when deciding the winners (except for a few exceptions: Leo DiCaprio, I’m looking at you). Julianne Moore, who has been nominated for Best Actress in Leading Role twice before, is due for a win. Fans on social media agree: with over 160,000 mentions and 31% positive sentiment, Moore’s nomination appears to be in the lead for both most discussed and most loved. Plus, conversations around the Still Alice actress are coupled with the highest number of the words “Oscar,” “win,” and “actress.”

Best Supporting Actress

Social media talks about: Emma Stone (Birdman)

Supporting Actress-mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Emma Stone convo map -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

If you’ve seen Birdman, it’s likely that Emma Stone’s brilliant monologue was one of the highlights of the movie. If you haven’t seen Birdman but just clicked on that YouTube link to see Stone’s performance, you will probably agree with the rest of social conversations, many of which feature the words “love,” “win,” and “Oscar.”

However, while Stone is winning by the number of mentions (almost 70,000 ahead of the second most-discussed actress, Meryl Streep), the most common keyword that appears together with Stone’s name in social messaging is… “Andrew Garfield.” So the Birdman star might be more of a Spider Man star in the hearts of fans and the eyes of the Academy, after all.

Social media favourite: Laura Dern (Wild)

Supporting Actress-sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Laura Dern convo map -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Unlike Stone, Laura Dern received the lowest number of mentions. However, it appears that most of them are largely positive, with the sentiment tallying up to 35% positive, 9 percent higher than Stone. Furthermore, almost all other keywords appearing in social posts about Dern are Oscar-related, with “Oscar” and “actress” ranking high in frequency.

While not in the lead for either mentions or sentiment, Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) had the highest share of voice for the words “Oscar” or “Oscars” included together with her name—17% of overall conversations. With 3 previous wins and 16 nominations, the actress is truly an Oscars veteran, which might explain such a high percentage.

Best Supporting Actor

Social media picks: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

Supporting Actor - mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015  Supporting Actor - sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Mark Ruffalo convo map -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Along with Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo is another rare occurrence in our analysis—an actor unanimously picked as the most likely candidate for the Oscar in the Best Actor in the Supporting Role category. With 82,000 mentions, 28% positive sentiment, and the highest number of “Oscar,” “win,” “love” and “amazing” keywords in social messaging about Ruffalo, the Foxcatcher star beat other candidates by a long stretch. Social media doesn’t tell us whether it was Ruffalo’s past as a former wrestler or the dramatic physical transformation of the actor that got him the social love. One thing is certain—in this category, Ruffalo has really put his the competition on their backs.

Best Director

Hey, that indie director you love might actually win an Oscar this year!

If we just told you this without disclosing the name, who would be your first guess: Wes Anderson or Richard Linklater?

Director mentions -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Director sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Social media picks: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Social discussions also mulled over the two choices, with both names topping the list for of most mentions. However, Wes Anderson is clearly in the lead, with twice as many mentions as Linklater, and a net positivity score of 44%—the highest sentiment rating among all six categories, with almost half of the total number of social media posts praising The Grand Budapest Hotel and its director.

Wes Anderson sentiment -  Social Media Predictions for Oscar Winners 2015

Do you agree with the share of social voice? Which of these social media metrics do you think will accurately predict the winners? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Read what TIME magazine had to say about our social media data.